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One more year as leader

/ 04:55 AM August 01, 2015

The term of office of Benigno S. Aquino III as president of the Philippines is for six years, not five. The Filipino people are entitled to one more year of service from him. Mid-2016 is when the people can start judging him for what he has done. It will only be the start because, like any other president, P-Noy will surely be rejudged many times, for a long time to come.

Last Monday’s State of the Nation Address was P-Noy’s last scheduled speech to a joint session of Congress. Not his last speech as president; just the last before this captive audience. (Luckily I was abroad, and didn’t have to listen to it in one sitting. I read it later; it was very interesting.)

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The Sona was a time for P-Noy to assess the current situation, and state how he will lead the country in his final year. It is fair for anyone to comment on what the speech included and excluded.

Personally, I would have liked a mention of the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), since 2015 is their target year. With the transfer of unachieved MDGs, particularly those of poverty and hunger, to the Sustainable Development Goals, it would also have been nice to hear the government’s plans toward the SDGs (see “Remember the future,” Opinion, 6/20/15).

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Anyone may agree or disagree with P-Noy’s priorities. But what all should acknowledge is that his job is to be our leader for one more year.

The people give President Noynoy Aquino high grades. It is the job of a president to serve the people as a whole, rather than any one of us individually. The bottom line is the people’s collective satisfaction with a president’s performance. This has been regularly measured by scientific opinion polls ever since the time of President Corazon Aquino.

It so happens that every single one of the people’s quarterly grades for P-Noy since 2010 has been Good (meaning net satisfaction of +30 to +49), if not Very Good (+50 to +69), with one exception. That exception was his net +10, or Moderate (+10 to +29), in the post-Mamasapano survey of March 2015. A grade of Moderate is clearly positive (see “Flying, floating, or sinking?”, Opinion, 4/11/15). His grade became a Good +30 in June 2015.

No other president was so popular, for so long. President Cory Aquino scored Good or better from 1986 to 1989, and got her first Moderate in March 1990. From then up to the end of her term she had one more Good (in April 1990), four Moderates, and two Neutrals (both +7). The SWS surveys were only twice a year at that time. She ended at +7.

President Fidel V. Ramos scored Good or better from 1992 to 1994, and got his first Moderate in March 1995. In 1995-1996, FVR had six Moderates and two Neutrals (+1 and +2). Interestingly, his grades rose to Good in all four surveys of 1997; this is for historians to analyze. In five surveys of 1998 he had one Good and four Moderates. He ended at +19.

President Joseph Estrada started with four Very Goods. Then he had a total of three Moderates and three Neutrals from October 1999 to

December 2000, ending at +9, before being forced from office in January 2001.

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President Gloria Arroyo had no honeymoon. In 20 surveys from March 2001 to August 2004, she got one Good (+30 in March 2004), 13 Moderates, five Neutrals, and one Poor (between -10 and -29) . From October 2004 to June 2010, however, she had four Neutrals (small negatives), 12 Poors, six Bads (-30 to -49) and two Very Bads (-50 to -69). She ended at -17. No other president ever had even a single negative grade.

The Quality of Life involves governance, and other things besides. SWS is concerned with surveying governance, among many other things, since it is part of its general theme, which is the Quality of Life (QOL). Bad governance makes people angry.

It is clear from surveys that P-Noy has governed unprecedentedly well so far. How he will perform from now on up to June 2016 is something that at least four more SWS surveys will monitor. Will he flop, as his political adversaries hope? Will he coast along, by avoiding controversy? Will he be bold, and possibly achieve greater heights? Let us see.

The SWS survey agenda on QOL includes the working of democracy, which has ups and downs, and cannot be taken for granted. Surveys show that free and fair presidential elections, such as those of 1998 and 2010, have been very good for the working of democracy. Let us watch carefully in 2016.

The economic QOL stresses the deprived over those with average income. Despite steady growth in the Gross National Product, there was a lost decade, starting in 2003, in the fight against poverty, evident in the flatness of both the intermittent government statistics and the quarterly SWS statistics. Hunger, on the other hand, was already low in 2003, but climbed steadily in 2004-2012, and partially recovered afterward (see “Hunger: the recovery continues,” Opinion, 7/25/15).

Indicators of QOL include subjective items like satisfaction with life and personal happiness. Surveys show that these are inversely related to economic deprivation. Involuntary hunger produces undeserved unhappiness.

The QOL is not only static, but also dynamic. It matters to people whether they are improving or worsening over time (see “All-time high personal optimism,” Opinion, 5/30/15). Watch for the new SWS quarterly report on gainers versus losers, and optimists versus pessimists, to be

published next week.

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TAGS: benigno s. Aquino iii, column, Mahar Mangahas, presidency, SONA 2015, term of office
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